Belarus may officially open its Astravyets nuclear power plant (NPP) on Friday in a symbolic move ahead of the presidential election, but the facility is unlikely to start actual operations until late this year or early next year, according to the Lithuanian president's adviser.
“The wording that the Astravyets NPP can be launched is not accurate,” Darius Kuliešius, a national security adviser to President Gitanas Nausėda, told LRT RADIO on Thursday.
“To our knowledge, the facility can start actual operations no earlier than the end of this year or the beginning of next year.”
Belarus' Energy Ministry said on Tuesday that “the physical launch” of the Astravyets plant's first reactor “is planned for the coming days”.
Kuliešius said this could be no more than a ribbon-cutting ceremony ahead of this weekend's presidential election.
“This isn't dangerous. Experts say this is a capacity equivalent to the needs of an iron,” he said.
Dainius Gaižauskas, the chairman of the Lithuanian parliament's Committee on National Security and Defence, and Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas said on Wednesday that Lithuania had no official information about the launch planned for Friday.
The facility will have two Russian-made VVER reactors with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts each. It is located in the region of Grodno, about 50 kilometers from Vilnius and less than 30 kilometers from the Lithuanian border.
Plans call for switching on the second reactor about a year after the launch of the first one.
Vilnius is the biggest critic of the Astravyets plant and is determined to boycott Belarusian electricity. Minsk denies that the facility fails to meet international safety standards.